TWO THOUSAND MILES ON AN AUTOMOBILE
BEING A DESULTORY NARRATIVE OF A TRIP THROUGH NEW ENGLAND, NEW YORK, CANADA, AND THE WEST
WITH EIGHTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS BY FRANK VERBECK
To L. O. E.
Who for more than sixteen hundred miles of the journey faced dangers and discomforts with an equanimity worthy a better cause, and whose company lightened the burdens and enhanced the pleasure of the "Chauffeur"
CHAPTER I.——-Some Preliminary Observations II.——The Machine Used III.—-The Start IV.——Into Ohio V.——-On to Buffalo VI.——Buffalo VII.—-Buffalo to Canandaigua VIII.—The Morgan Mystery IX.——Through Western New York X.——-The Mohawk Valley XI.——The Valley of Lebanon XII.—-An Incident of Travel XIII.—Through Massachusetts XIV.—-Lexington and Concord XV.——Rhode Island and Connecticut XVI.—-Anarchism XVII.—New York to Buffalo XVIII.-Through Canada Home
To disarm criticism at the outset, the writer acknowledges a thousand imperfections in this discursive story. In all truth, it is a most garrulous and incoherent narrative. Like the automobile, part of the time the narrative moves, part of the time it does not; now it is in the road pursuing a straight course; then again it is in the ditch, or far afield, quite beyond control and out of reason. It is impossible to write coolly, calmly, logically, and coherently about the automobile; it is not a cool, calm, logical, or coherent beast, the exact reverse being true.
The critic who has never driven a machine is not qualified to speak concerning the things contained herein, while the critic who has will speak with the charity and chastened humility which spring from adversity.
The charm of automobiling lies less in the sport itself than in the unusual contact with people and things, hence any description of a tour would be incomplete without reflections by the way; the imagination once in will not out; it even seeks to usurp the humbler function of observation. However, the arrangement of chapters and headings—like finger-posts or danger signs—is such that the wary reader may avoid the bad places and go through from cover to cover, choosing his own route. To facilitate the finding of what few morsels of practical value the book may contain, an index has been prepared which will enable the casual reader to select his pages with discrimination.
These confessions and warnings are printed in this conspicuous manner so that the uncertain seeker after "something to read" may see at a glance the poor sort of entertainment offered herein, and replace the book upon the shelf without buying.
CHAPTER ONE SOME PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS THE MADDING CROWD
Any woman can drive an electric automobile, any man can drive a steam, but neither man nor woman can drive a gasoline; it follows its own odorous will, and goes or goes not as it feels disposed.
For this very wilfulness the gasoline motor is the most fascinating machine of all. It possesses the subtle attraction of caprice; it constantly offers something to overcome; as in golf, you start out each time to beat your own record. The machine is your tricky and resourceful opponent. When you think it conquered and well-broken to harness, submissive and resigned to your will, behold it is as obstinate as a mule,—balks, kicks, snorts, puffs, blows, or, what is worse, refuses to kick, snort, puff, and blow, but stands in stubborn silence, an obdurate beast which no amount of coaxing, cajoling, cranking will start.
One of the beauties of the beast is its strict impartiality. It shows no more deference to maker than to owner; it moves no more quickly for expert mechanic than for amateur driver. When it balks, it balks,—inventor, manufacturer, mechanic, stand puzzled; suddenly it starts,—they are equally puzzled.
Who has not seen inventors of these capricious motors standing by the roadside scratching their heads in despair, utterly at a loss to know why the stubborn thing does not go? Who has not seen skilled mechanics in blue jeans and unskilled amateurs in jeans of leather, so to speak, flat on their backs under the vehicle, peering upward into the intricacies of the mechanism, trying to find the cause,—the obscure, the hidden source of all their trouble? And then the probing with wires, the tugs with wrenches, the wrestling with screw-drivers, the many trials,—for the most part futile,—the subdued language of the bunkers, and at length, when least expected, a start, and the machine goes off as if nothing at all had been the matter. It is then the skilled driver looks wise and does not betray his surprise to the gaping crowd, just looks as if the start were the anticipated result of his well-directed efforts instead of a chance hit amidst blind gropings.
One cannot but sympathize with the vanity of the French chauffeur who stops his machine in the midst of a crowd when it is working perfectly, makes a few idle passes with wrenches and oil-cans, pulls a lever and is off, all for the pleasure of hearing the populace remark, "He understands his machine. He is a good one." While the poor fellow, who really is in trouble, sweats and groans and all but swears as he works in vain to find what is the matter, to the delight of the onlookers who laugh at what seems to them ignorance and lack of skill.
And why should not these things be? Is not the crowd multitude always with us—or against us? There is no spot so dreary, no country so waste, no highway so far removed from the habitations and haunts of man that a crowd of gaping people will not spring up when an automobile stops for repairs. Choose a plain, the broad expanse of which is unbroken by a sign of man; a wood, the depths of which baffle the eye and tangle the foot; let your automobile stop for so long as sixty seconds, and the populace begin to gather, with the small boy in the van; like birds of prey they perch upon all parts of the machine, choosing by quick intuition those parts most susceptible to injury from weight and contact, until you scarcely can move and do the things you have to do.
The curiosity of the small boy is the forerunner of knowledge, and must be satisfied. It is quite idle to tell him to "Keep away!" it is worse than useless to lose your temper and order him to "Clear out!" it is a physical impossibility for him to do either; the law of his being requires him to remain where he is and to indefatigably get in the way. If he did not pry into everything and ask a thousand questions, the thoughtful observer would be fearful lest he were an idiot. The American small boy is not idiotic; tested by his curiosity concerning automobiles, he is the fruition of the centuries, the genius the world is awaiting, the coming ruler of men and empires, or—who knows?—the coming master of the automobile.
Happily, curiosity is not confined to the small boy; it is but partially suppressed in his elders,—and that is lucky, for his elders, and their horses, can often help.
The young chauffeur is panicky if he comes to a stop on a lonely road, where no human habitation is visible; he fears he may never get away, that no help will come; that he must abandon his machine and walk miles for assistance. The old chauffeur knows better. It matters not to him how lonely the road, how remote the spot, one or two plaintive blasts of the horn and, like mushrooms, human beings begin to spring up; whence they come is a mystery to you; why they come equally a mystery to them, but come they will, and to help they are willing, to the harnessing of horses and the dragging of the heavy machine to such place as you desire.
This willingness, not to say eagerness, on the part of the farmer, the truckman, the liveryman, in short, the owner of horses, to help out a machine he despises, which frightens his horses and causes him no end of trouble, is an interesting trait of human nature; a veritable heaping of coals of fire. So long as the machine is careering along in the full tide of glory, clearing and monopolizing the highway, the horse owner wishes it in Hades; but let the machine get into trouble, and the same horse owner will pull up out of the ditch into which he has been driven, hitch his horses to the cause of his scare, haul it to his stable, and make room by turning his Sunday carryall into the lane, and four farmers, three truckmen, and two liverymen out of five will refuse all offers of payment for their trouble.
But how galling to the pride of the automobilist to see a pair of horses patiently pulling his machine along the highway, and how he fights against such an unnatural ending of a day's run.
The real chauffeur, the man who knows his machine, who can run it, who is something more than a puller of levers and a twister of wheels, will not seek or permit the aid of horse or any other power, except where the trouble is such that no human ingenuity can repair on the road.
It is seldom the difficulty is such that repairs cannot be made on the spot. The novice looks on in despair, the experienced driver considers a moment, makes use of the tools and few things he has with him, and goes on.
It is astonishing how much can be done with few tools and practically no supplies. A packing blows out; if you have no asbestos, brown paper, or even newspaper saturated with oil, will do for the time being; if a wheel has to be taken off, a fence-rail makes an excellent jack; if a chain is to be riveted, an axe or even a stone makes a good dolly-bar and your wrench an excellent riveting hammer; if screws, or nuts, or bolts drop off, —and they do,—and you have no extra, a glance at the machine is sure to disclose duplicates that can be removed temporarily to the more essential places.
Then, too, no one has ever exhausted the limitless resources of a farmer's wagon-shed. In it you find the accumulations of generations, bits of every conceivable thing,—all rusty, of course, and seemingly worthless, but sure to serve your purpose on a pinch, and so accessible, never locked; just go in and help yourself. Nowadays farmers use and abuse so much complicated machinery, that it is more than likely one could construct entire an automobile from the odds and ends of a half-dozen farm-yards.
All boys and most girls—under twelve—say, "Gimme a ride;" some boys and a few girls—over twelve—say, "You look lonesome, mister." What the hoodlums of the cities say will hardly bear repetition. In spite of its swiftness the automobile offers opportunities for studying human nature appreciated only by the driver.
The city hoodlum is a most aggressive individual; he is not invariably in tattered clothes, and is by no means confined to the alleys and side streets. The hoodlum element is a constituent part of human nature, present in every one; the classification of the individual depending simply upon the depth at which the turbulent element is buried, upon the number and thickness of the overlying strata of civilization and refinement. In the recognized hoodlum the obnoxious element is quite at the surface; in the best of us it is only too apt to break forth,—no man can be considered an absolutely extinct volcano.
One can readily understand why owners and drivers of horses should feel and even exhibit a marked aversion towards the automobile, since, from their stand-point, it is an unmitigated nuisance; but why the hoodlums who stand about the street corners should be animated by a seemingly irresistible desire to hurl stones and brickbats—as well as epithets—at passing automobiles is a mystery worth solving; it presents an interesting problem in psychology. What is the mental process occasioned by the sudden appearance of an automobile, and which results in the hurling of the first missile which comes to hand? It must be a reversion to savage instincts, the instinct of the chase; something strange comes quickly into view; it makes a strange noise, emits, perhaps, a strange odor, is passing quickly and about to escape; it must be killed, hence the brickbat. Uncontrollable impulse! poor hoodlum, he cannot help it; if he could restrain the hand and stay the brickbat he would not be a hoodlum, but a man. Time and custom have tamed him so that he lets horses, bicycles, and carriages pass; he can't quite help slinging a stone at an advertising van or any strange vehicle, while the automobile is altogether too much.
That it is the machine which rouses his savage instincts is clear from the fact that rarely is anything thrown at the occupants. Complete satisfaction is found in hitting the thing itself; no doubt regret would be felt if any one were injured, but if the stone resounds upon the iron frame of the moving devil, the satisfaction is felt that the best of us might experience from hitting the scaly sides of a slumbering sea-monster, for hit him we would, though at immediate risk of perdition.
The American hoodlum has, withal, his good points. If you are not in trouble, he will revile and stone you; if in trouble, he will commiserate and assist. He is quick to put his shoulder to the wheel and push, pull or lift; often with mechanical insight superior to the unfortunate driver he will discern the difficulty and suggest the remedy; dirt has no terrors for him, oil is his delight, grease the goal of his desires; mind you, all this concerns the American hoodlum or the hoodlum of indefinite or of Irish extraction; it applies not to the Teutonic or other hoodlum. He will pass you by with phlegmatic indifference, he will not throw things at you, neither will he help you unless strongly appealed to, and then not over-zealously or over-intelligently; his application is short-lived and he hurries on; but the other hoodlum will stay with you all night if necessary, finding, no doubt, the automobile a pleasant diversion from a bed on the grass.
But the dissension a quarter will cause! A battle royal was once produced by a dollar. They had all assisted, but, like the workers in the vineyard, some had come early and some late. The automobile, in trying to turn on a narrow road, had dropped off the side into low wet ground; the early comers could not quite get it back, but with the aid of the later it was done; the division of a dollar left behind raised the old, old problem. Unhappily, it fell into the hands of a late comer for distribution, and it was his contention that the final lift did the work, that all previous effort was so much wasted energy; the early comers contended that the reward should be in proportion to expenditure of time and muscle and not measured by actual achievement,—a discussion not without force on both sides, but cut short by a scrimmage involving far more force than the discussion. All of which goes to show the disturbing influence of money, for in all truth those who had assisted did not expect any reward; they first laughed to see the machine in the ditch, and then turned to like tigers to get it out.
This whole question of paying for services in connection with automobiling is as interesting as it is new. The people are not adjusted to the strange vehicle. A man with a white elephant could probably travel from New York to San Francisco without disbursing a penny for the keeping of his animal. Farmers and even liverymen would keep and feed it on the way without charge. It is a good deal so with an automobile; it is still sufficiently a curiosity to command respect and attention. The farmer is glad to have it stop in front of his door or put up in his shed; he will supply it with oil and water. The blacksmith would rather have it stop at his shop for repair than at his rival's,—it gives him a little notoriety, something to talk about. So it is with the liveryman at night; he is, as a rule, only too glad to have the novelty under his roof, and takes pride in showing it to the visiting townsfolk. They do not know what to charge, and therefore charge nothing. It is often with difficulty anything can be forced upon them; they are quite averse to accepting gratuities; meanwhile, the farmer, whose horse and cart have taken up far less room and caused far less trouble, pays the fixed charge.
These conditions prevail only in localities where automobiles are seen infrequently. Along the highways where they travel frequently all is quite changed; many a stable will not house them at any price, and those that will, charge goodly sums for the service.
It is one thing to own an automobile, another thing to operate it. It is one thing to sit imposingly at the steering-wheel until something goes wrong, and quite another thing to repair and go on.
There are chauffeurs and chauffeurs,—the latter wear the paraphernalia and are photographed, while the former are working under the machines. You can tell the difference by the goggles. The sham chauffeur sits in front and turns the wheel, the real sits behind and takes things as they come; the former wears the goggles, the latter finds sufficient protection in the smut on the end of his nose.
There is every excuse for relying helplessly on an expert mechanic if you have no mechanical ingenuity, or are averse to getting dirty and grimy; but that is not automobiling; it is being run about in a huge perambulator.
The real chauffeur knows every moment by the sound and "feel" of his machine exactly what it is doing, the amount of gasoline it is taking, whether the lubrication is perfect, the character and heat of the spark, the condition of almost every screw, nut, and bolt, and he runs his machine accordingly; at the first indication of anything wrong he stops and takes the stitch in time that saves ninety and nine later. The sham chauffeur sits at the wheel, and in the security of ignorance runs gayly along until his machine is a wreck; he may have hours, days, or even weeks of blind enjoyment, but the end is inevitable, and the repairs costly; then he blames every one but himself,—blames the maker for not making a machine that may be operated by inexperience forever, blames the men in his stable for what reason he knows not, blames the roads, the country, everything and everybody—but himself.
It is amusing to hear the sham chauffeur talk. When things go well, he does it; when they go wrong, it is the fault of some one else; if he makes a successful run, the mechanic with him is a nonentity; if he breaks down, the mechanic is his only resource. It is more interesting to hear the mechanic—the real chauffeur —talk when he is flat on his back making good the mistakes of his master, but his conversation could not be printed verbatim et literatim,—it is explosive and without a muffler.
The man who cannot run his machine a thousand miles without expert assistance should make no pretense to being a chauffeur, for he is not one. The chauffeur may use mechanics whenever he can find them; but if he can't find them, he gets along just as well; and when he does use them it is not for information and advice, but to do just the things he wants done and no more. The skilled enthusiast would not think of letting even an expert from the factory do anything to his machine, unless he stood over him and watched every movement; as soon would a lover of horses permit his hostlers to dope his favorite mount.
CHAPTER TWO THE MACHINE USED MAKING READY TO START
The machine was just an ordinary twelve hundred dollar single-cylinder American machine, with neither improvements nor attachments to especially strengthen it for a long tour; and it had seen constant service since January without any return to the shop for repairs.
It was rated eight and one-half horse-power; but, as every one knows, American machines are overrated as a rule, while foreign machines are greatly underrated. A twelve horse-power American machine may mean not more than eight or ten; a twelve horse-power French machine, with its four cylinders, means not less than sixteen.
The foreign manufacturer appreciates the advantage of having it said that his eight horse-power machine will run faster and climb better than the eight horsepower machine of a rival maker; hence the tendency to increase the power without changing the nominal rating. The American manufacturer caters to the demand of his customers for machines of high power by advancing the nominal rating quite beyond the power actually developed.
But already things are changing here, and makers show a disposition to rate their machines low, for the sake of astonishing in performance. A man dislikes to admit his machine is rated at forty horse-power and to acknowledge defeat by a machine rated at twenty, when the truth is that each machine is probably about thirty.
The tendency at the present moment is decidedly towards the French type,—two or four cylinders placed in front.
In the construction of racing-cars and high-speed machines for such roads as they have on the other side, we have much to learn from the French,—and we have been slow in learning it. The conceit of the American mechanic amounts often to blind stubbornness, but the ease with which the foreign machines have passed the American in all races on smooth roads has opened the eyes of our builders; the danger just now is that they will go to the other extreme and copy too blindly.
In the hands of experts, the foreign racing-cars are the most perfect road locomotives yet devised; for touring over American roads in the hands of the amateur they are worse than useless; and even experts have great difficulty in running week in and week out without serious breaks and delays. To use a slang phrase, "They will not stand the racket." However "stunning" they look on asphalt and macadam with their low, rakish bodies, resplendent in red and polished brass, on country roads they are very frequently failures. A thirty horse-power foreign machine costing ten or twelve thousand dollars, accompanied by one or more expert mechanics, may make a brilliant showing for a week or so; but when the time is up, the ordinary, cheap, country-looking, American automobile will be found a close second at the finish; not that it is a finer piece of machinery, for it is not; but it has been developed under the adverse conditions prevailing in this country and is built to surmount them. The maker in this country who runs his machine one hundred miles from his factory, would find fewer difficulties between Paris and Berlin.
The temptation is great to purchase a foreign machine on sight; resist the temptation until you have ridden in it over a hundred miles of sandy, clayey, and hilly American roads; you may then defer the purchase indefinitely, unless you expect to carry along a man.
Machine for machine, regardless of price, the comparison is debatable; but price for price, there is no comparison whatsoever; in fact, there is no inexpensive imported machine which compares for a moment with the American product.
A single-cylinder motor possesses a few great advantages to compensate for many disadvantages; it has fewer parts to get out of order, and troubles can be much more quickly located and overcome. Two, three, and four cylinders run with less vibration and are better in every way, except that with every cylinder added the chances of troubles are multiplied, and the difficulty of locating them increased. Each cylinder must have its own lubrication, its ignition, intake, and exhaust mechanisms,—the quartette that is responsible for nine-tenths of the stops.
Beyond eight or ten horse-power the single cylinder is hardly practicable. The kick from the explosion is too violent, the vibration and strain too great, and power is lost in transmission. But up to eight or ten horse-power the single-cylinder motor with a heavy fly-wheel is practicable, runs very smoothly at high speeds, mounts hills and ploughs mud quite successfully. The American ten horse-power single-cylinder motor will go faster and farther on our roads than most foreign double-cylinder machines of the same horse-power. It will last longer and require less repairs.
The amateur who is not a pretty good mechanic and who wishes to tour without the assistance of an expert will do well to use the single-cylinder motor; he will have trouble enough with that without seeking further complications by the adoption of multiple cylinders.
It is quite practicable to attain speeds of from twenty to thirty miles per hour with a single-cylinder motor, but for bad roads and hilly countries a low gear with a maximum of twenty to twenty-five miles per hour is better. The average for the day will be higher because better speed is maintained through heavy roads and on up grades.
So far as resiliency is concerned, there is no comparison between the French double-tube tire and the heavy American single tube, —the former is far ahead, and is, of course, easily repaired on the road, but it does not seem to stand the severe wear of American roads, and it is very easily punctured. Our highways both in and out of cities are filled with things that cut, and bristle with wire-nails. The heavy American single-tube tire holds out quite well; it gets many deep cuts and takes nails like a pin-cushion, but comparatively few go through. The weight of the tire makes it rather hard riding, very hard, indeed, as compared with a fine Michelin.
There are many devices for carrying luggage, but for getting a good deal into a small compass there is nothing equal to a big Scotch hold-all. It is waterproof to begin with, and holds more than a small steamer-trunk. It can be strapped in or under the machine anywhere. Trunks and hat-boxes may remain with the express companies, always within a few hours' call.
What to wear is something of a problem. In late autumn and winter fur is absolutely essential to comfort. Even at fifteen or twenty miles an hour the wind is penetrating and goes through everything but the closest of fur. For women, fur or leather-lined coats are comfortable even when the weather seems still quite warm.
Leather coats are a great protection against both cold and dust. Unhappily, most people who have no machines of their own, when invited to ride, have nothing fit to wear; they dress too thinly, wear hats that blow off, and they altogether are, and look, quite unhappy—to the great discomfort of those with them. It is not a bad plan to have available one or two good warm coats for the benefit of guests, and always carry water-proof coats and lap-covers. In emergency, thin black oil-cloth, purchasable at any country store, makes a good water-proof covering.
Whoever is running a machine must be prepared for emergencies, for at any moment it may be necessary to get underneath.
The man who is going to master his own machine must expect to get dirty; dust, oil, and grime plentifully distributed,—but dirt is picturesque, even if objectionable. Character is expressed in dirt; the bright and shining school-boy face is devoid of interest, an artificial product, quite unnatural; the smutty street urchin is an actor on life's stage, every daub, spot, and line an essential part of his make-up.
The spic and span may go well with a coach and four, but not with the automobile. Imagine an engineer driving his locomotive in blue coat, yellow waistcoat, and ruffles,—quite as appropriate as a fastidious dress on the automobile.
People are not yet quite accustomed to the grime of automobiling; they tolerate the dust of the golf links, the dirt of base-ball and cricket, the mud of foot-ball, and would ridicule the man who failed to dress appropriately for those games, but the mechanic's blouse or leather coat of automobiling, the gloves saturated with oil—these are comparatively unfamiliar sights; hence men are seen starting off for a hard run in ducks and serges, sacks, cutaways, even frocks, and hats of all styles; give a farmer a silk hat and patent leather boots to wear while threshing, and he would match them.
Every sport has its own appropriate costume, and the costume is not the result of arbitrary choice, but of natural selection; if we hunt, fish, or play any outdoor game, sooner or later we find ourselves dressing like our associates. The tenderfoot may put on his cowboy's suit a little too soon and look and be very uncomfortable, but the costume is essential to success in the long run.
The Russian cap so commonly seen is an affectation,—it catches the wind and is far from comfortable. The best head covering is a closely fitting Scotch cap.
CHAPTER THREE THE START "IS THIS ROAD TO—"
The trip was not premeditated—it was not of malice aforethought; it was the outcome of an idle suggestion made one hot summer afternoon, and decided upon in the moment. Within the same half-hour a telegram was sent the Professor inviting him for a ride to Buffalo. Beyond that point there was no thought,—merely a nebulous notion that might take form if everything went well.
Hampered by no announcements, with no record to make or break, the trip was for pleasure,—a mid-summer jaunt. We did intend to make the run to Buffalo as fast as roads would permit,—but for exhilaration only, and not with any thought of making a record that would stand against record-making machines, driven by record-breaking men.
It is much better to start for nowhere and get there than to start for somewhere and fall by the wayside. Just keep going, and the machine will carry you beyond your expectations.
The Professor knew nothing about machinery and less about an automobile, but where ignorance is bliss it is double-distilled folly to know anything about the eccentricities of an automobile.
To enjoy automobiling, one must know either all or nothing about the machine,—a little knowledge is a dangerous thing; on the part of the guest it leads to all sorts of apprehensions, on the part of the chauffeur to all sorts of experiments. About five hundred miles is the limit of a man's ignorance; he then knows enough to make trouble; at the end of another five hundred he is of assistance, at the end of the third he will run the machine himself—your greatest pleasure is in the first five hundred. With some precocious individuals these figures may be reduced somewhat.
The Professor adjusted his spectacles and looked at the machine:
"A very wonderful contrivance, and one that requires some skill to operate. From lack of experience, I cannot hope to be of much practical assistance at first, but possibly a theoretical knowledge of the laws and principles governing things mechanical may be of service in an emergency. Since receiving your telegram, I have brushed up a little my knowledge of both kinematics and dynamics, though it is quite apparent that the operation of these machines, accompanied, as it is said, by many restraints and perturbations, falls under the latter branch. In view of the possibility—remote, I trust—of the machine refusing to go, I have devoted a little time to statics, and therefore feel that I shall be something more than a supercargo."
"Well, you are equipped, Professor; no doubt your knowledge will prove useful."
"Knowledge is always useful if people in this busy age would only pause to make use of it. Mechanics has been defined as the application of pure mathematics to produce or modify motion in inferior bodies; what could be more apt? Is it not our intention to produce or modify motion in this inferior body before us?"
Days after the Professor found the crank a more useful implement for the inducing of motion.
It was Thursday morning, August 1, at exactly seven o'clock, that we passed south on Michigan Avenue towards South Chicago and Hammond. A glorious morning, neither hot nor cold, but just deliciously cool, with some promise—afterwards more than fulfilled—of a warm day.
The hour was early, policemen few, streets clear, hence fast speed could be made.
As we passed Zion Temple, near Twelfth Street, the home of the Dowieites, the Professor said:
"A very remarkable man, that Dowie."
"A fraud and an impostor," I retorted, reflecting current opinion. "Possibly; but we all impose more or less upon one another; he has simply made a business of his imposition. Did you ever meet him?"
"No; it's hardly worth while."
"It is worth while to meet any man who influences or controls a considerable body of his fellow-men. The difference between Mohammed and Joseph Smith is of degree rather than kind. Dowie is down towards the small end of the scale, but he is none the less there, and differs in kind from your average citizen in his power to influence and control others. I crossed the lake with him one night and spent the evening in conversation."
"What are your impressions of the man?"
"A shrewd, hard-headed, dogmatic Scotchman,—who neither smokes nor drinks."
"Who calls himself Elijah come to earth again."
"I had the temerity to ask him concerning his pretensions in that direction, and he said, substantially, 'I make no claims or assertions, but the Bible says Elijah will return to earth; it does not say in what form or how he will manifest himself; he might choose your personality; he might choose mine; he has not chosen yours, there are some evidences that he has chosen mine."
"Proof most conclusive."
"It satisfies his followers. After all, perhaps it does not matter so much what we believe as how we believe."
A few moments later we were passing the new Christian Science Temple on Drexel Boulevard,—a building quite simple and delightful, barring some garish lamps in front.
"There is another latter-day sect," said the Professor; "one of the phenomena of the nineteenth century."
"You would not class them with the Dowieites?"
"By no means, but an interesting part of a large whole which embraces at one extreme the Dowieites. The connecting link is faith. But the very architecture of the temple we have just passed illustrates the vast interval that separates the two."
"Then you judge a sect by its buildings?"
"Every faith has its own architecture. The temple at Karnak and the tabernacle at Salt Lake City are petrifactions of faith. In time the places of worship are the only tangible remains—witness Stonehenge."
Chicago boasts the things she has not and slights the things she has; she talks of everything but the lake and her broad and almost endless boulevards, yet these are her chief glories.
For miles and miles and miles one can travel boulevards upon which no traffic teams are allowed. From Fort Sheridan, twenty-five miles north, to far below Jackson Park to the south there is an unbroken stretch. Some day Sheridan Road will extend to Milwaukee, ninety miles from Chicago.
One may reach Jackson Park, the old World's Fair site, by three fine boulevards,—Michigan, broad and straight; Drexel, with its double driveways and banks of flowers, trees, and shrubbery between; Grand, with its three driveways, and so wide one cannot recognize an acquaintance on the far side, cannot even see the policeman frantically motioning to slow down.
It does not matter which route is taken to the Park, the good roads end there. We missed our way, and went eighteen miles to Hammond, over miles of poor pavement and unfinished roads. That was a pull which tried nerves and temper,—to find at the end there was another route which involved but a short distance of poor going. It is all being improved, and soon there will be a good road to Hammond.
Through Indiana from Hammond to Hobart the road is macadamized and in perfect condition; we reached Hobart at half-past nine; no stop was made. At Crocker two pails of water were added to the cooling tank.
At Porter the road was lost for a second time,—exasperating. At Chesterton four gallons of gasoline were taken and a quick run made to Burdick.
The roads are now not so good,—not bad, but just good country roads, some stretches of gravel, but generally clay, with some sand here and there. The country is rolling, but no steep hills.
Up to this time the machine had required no attention, but just beyond Otis, while stopping to inquire the way, we discovered a rusty round nail embedded to the head in the right rear tire. The tire showed no signs of deflation, but on drawing the nail the air followed, showing a puncture. As the nail was scarcely three-quarters of an inch long,—not long enough to go clear through and injure the inner coating on the opposite side,—it was entirely practical to reinsert and run until it worked out. A very fair temporary repair might have been made by first dipping the nail in a tire cement, but the nail was rusty and stuck very well.
An hour later, at La Porte, the nail was still doing good service and no leak could be detected. We wired back to Chicago to have an extra tire sent on ahead.
From Chicago to La Porte, by way of Hobart, the roads are excellent, excepting always the few miles near South Chicago. Keep to the south—even as far south as Valparaiso—rather than to the north, near the lake. The roads are hilly and sandy near the lake.
Beware the so-called road map; it is a snare and a delusion. A road which seems most seductive on the bicycler's road map may be a sea of sand or a veritable quagmire, but with a fine bicycle path at the side. As you get farther east these cinder paths are protected by law, with heavy fines for driving thereon; it requires no little restraint to plough miles and miles through bottomless mud on a narrow road in the Mohawk valley with a superb three-foot cinder path against your very wheels. The machine of its own accord will climb up now and then; it requires all the vigilance of a law-abiding driver to keep it in the mud, where it is so unwilling to travel.
So far as finding and keeping the road is concerned,—and it is a matter of great concern in this vast country, where roads, cross-roads, forks, and all sorts of snares and delusions abound without sign-boards to point the way,—the following directions may be given once for all:
If the proposed route is covered by any automobile hand-book or any automobile publication, get it, carry it with you and be guided by it; all advice of ancient inhabitants to the contrary notwithstanding.
If there is no publication covering the route, take pains to get from local automobile sources information about the several possible routes to the principal towns which you wish to make.
If you can get no information at all from automobile sources, you can make use—with great caution—of bicycle road maps, of the maps rather than the redlined routes.
About the safest course is to spread out the map and run a straight line between the principal points on the proposed route, note the larger villages, towns, and cities near the line so drawn, make a list of them in the order they come from the starting-point, and simply inquire at each of these points for the best road to the next.
If the list includes places of fair size,—say, from one to ten or twenty thousand inhabitants, it is reasonably certain that the roads connecting such places will be about as good as there are in the vicinity; now and then a better road may be missed, but, in the long run, that does not matter much, and the advantage of keeping quite close to the straight line tells in the way of mileage.
It is usually worse than useless to inquire in any place about the roads beyond a radius of fifteen or twenty miles; plenty of answers to all questions will be forthcoming, but they simply mislead. In these days of railroads, farmers no longer make long overland drives.
It is much easier to get information in small villages than in cities. In a city about all one can learn is how to get out by the shortest cut. Once out, the first farmer will give information about the roads beyond.
In wet weather the last question will be, "Is the road clayey or bottomless anywhere?" In dry weather, "Is there any deep, soft sand, and are there any sand hills?"
The judgment of a man who is looking at the machine while he is giving information is biased by the impressions as to what the machine can do; make allowances for this and get, if possible, an accurate description of the condition of any road which is pronounced impassable, for you alone know what the machine can do, and many a road others think you cannot cover is made with ease.
To the farmer the automobile is a traction engine, and he advises the route accordingly; he will even speculate whether a given bridge will support the extraordinary load.
Once we were directed to go miles out of our way over a series of hills to avoid a stretch of road freshly covered with broken stone, because our solicitous friends were sure the stones would cut the rubber tires.
On the other hand, in Michigan, a well meaning old lady sent us straight against the very worst of sand hills, not a weed, stone, or hard spot on it, so like quicksand that the wheels sank as they revolved; it was the only hill from which we retreated, to find that farmers avoided that particular road on account of that notorious hill, to find also a good, well-travelled road one mile farther around. These instances are mentioned here to show how hazardous it is to accept blindly directions given.
"Is this the road to—?" is the chauffeur's ever recurring shout to people as he whizzes by. Four times out of five he gets a blank stare or an idiotic smile. Now and then he receives a quick "Yes" or "No."
If time permits to stop and discuss the matter at length, do so with a man; if passing quickly, ask a woman.
A woman will reply before a man comprehends what is asked; the feminine mind is so much more alert than the masculine; then, too, a woman would rather know what a man is saying than watch a machine, while a man would rather see the machine than listen;—in many ways the automobile differentiates the sexes.
Of a group of school children, the girls will answer more quickly and accurately than the boys. What they know, they seem to know positively. A boy's wits go wool gathering; he is watching the wheels go round.
At Carlyle, on the way to South Bend, the tire was leaking slightly, the nail had worked out. The road is a fine wide macadam, somewhat rolling as South Bend is approached.
By the road taken South Bend is about one hundred miles from Chicago,—the distance actually covered was some six or eight miles farther, on account of wanderings from the straight and narrow path. The hour was exactly two fifty-three, nearly eight hours out, an average of about twelve and one-half miles an hour, including all stops, and stops count in automobiling; they pull the average down by jumps.
The extra tire was to be at Elkhart, farther on, and the problem was to make the old one hold until that point would be reached. Just as we were about to insert a plug to take the place of the nail, a bicycle repairer suggested rubber bands. A dozen small bands were passed through the little fork made by the broken eye of a large darning-needle, stretched tight over a wooden handle into which the needle had been inserted; some tire cement was injected into the puncture, and the needle carrying the stretched bands deftly thrust clear through; on withdrawing the needle the bands remained, plugging the hole so effectually that it showed no leak until some weeks later, when near Boston, the air began to work slowly through the fabric.
Heavy and clumsy as are the large single-tube tires, it is quite practicable to carry an extra one, though we did not. One is pretty sure to have punctures,—though two in twenty-six hundred miles are not many.
Nearly an hour was spent at South Bend; the river road, following the trolley line, was taken to Elkhart.
Near Osceola a bridge was down for repairs; the stream was quite wide and swift but not very deep. From the broken bridge the bottom seemed to be sand and gravel, and the approaches on each side were not too steep. There was nothing to do but go through or lose many miles in going round. Putting on all power we went through with no difficulty whatsoever, the water at the deepest being about eighteen to twenty inches, somewhat over the hubs. If the bottom of the little stream had been soft and sticky, or filled with boulders, fording would have been out of the question. Before attempting a stream, one must make sure of the bottom; the depth is of less importance.
We did not run into Elkhart, but passed about two miles south in sight of the town, arriving at Goshen at four fifteen. The roads all through here seem to be excellent. From Goshen our route was through Benton and Ligonier, arriving at Kendallville at exactly eight o'clock.
The Professor with painstaking accuracy kept a log of the run, noting every stop and the time lost.
In this first day's run of thirteen hours, the distance covered by route taken was one hundred and seventy miles; deducting all stops, the actual running time was nine hours and twenty minutes, an average of eighteen miles per hour while the machine was in motion.
For an ordinary road machine this is a high average over so long a stretch, but the weather was perfect and the machine working like a clock. The roads were very good on the whole, and, while the country was rolling, the grades were not so steep as to compel the use of the slow gear to any great extent.
The machine was geared rather high for any but favorable conditions, and could make thirty-five miles an hour on level macadam, and race down grade at an even higher rate. Before reaching Buffalo we found the gearing too high for some grades and for deep sand.
On the whole, the roads of Northern Indiana are good, better than the roads of any adjoining State, and we were told the roads of the entire State are very good. The system of improvement under State laws seems to be quite advanced. It is a little galling to the people of Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio to find the humble Hoosier is far ahead in the matter of road building. If all the roads between Chicago and New York averaged as good as those of Indiana, the trip would present fewer difficulties and many more delights.
The Professor notes that up to this point nine and three-quarters gallons of gasoline have been consumed,—seventeen miles to the gallon. When a motor is working perfectly, the consumption of gasoline is always a pretty fair indication of the character of the roads. Our machine was supposed to make twenty miles to the gallon, and so it would on level roads, with the spark well advanced and the intake valve operating to a nicety; but under adverse conditions more gasoline is used, and with the hill-climbing gear four times the gasoline is used per mile.
The long run of this first day was most encouraging; but the test is not the first day, nor the second, nor even the first week, nor the second, but the steady pull of week in and week out.
With every mile there is a theoretical decrease in the life and total efficiency of the machine; after a run of five hundred or a thousand miles this decrease is very perceptible. The trouble is that while the distance covered increases in arithmetical progression, the deterioration of the machine is in geometrical. During the first few days a good machine requires comparatively little attention each day; during the last weeks of a long tour it requires double the attention and ten times the work.
No one who has not tried it can appreciate the great strain and the wear and tear incidental to long rides on American roads. Going at twenty or twenty-five miles an hour in a machine with thirty-two-inch wheels and short wheel-base gives about the same exercise one gets on a horse; one is lifted from the seat and thrown from side to side, until you learn to ride the machine as you would a trotter and take the bumps, accordingly. It is trying to the nerves and the temper, it exercises every muscle in the body, and at night one is ready for a good rest.
Lovers of the horse frequently say that automobiling is to coaching as steam yachting is to sailing,—all of which argues the densest ignorance concerning automobiling, since there is no sport which affords anything like the same measure of exhilaration and danger, and requires anything like the same amount of nerve, dash, and daring. Since the days of Roman chariot racing the records of man describe nothing that parallels automobile racing, and, so far as we have any knowledge, chariot racing, save for the plaudits of vast throngs of spectators, was tame and uneventful compared with the frightful pace of sixty and eighty miles an hour in a throbbing, bounding, careering road locomotive, over roads practically unknown, passing persons, teams, vehicles, cattle, obstacles, and obstructions of all kinds, with a thousand hair-breadth escapes from wreck and destruction.
The sport may not be pretty and graceful; it lacks the sanction of convention, the halo of tradition. It does not admit of smart gowns and gay trappings; it is the last product of a mechanical age, the triumph of mechanical ingenuity, the harnessing of mechanical forces for pleasure instead of profit,—the automobile is the mechanical horse, and, while not as graceful, is infinitely more powerful, capricious, and dangerous than the ancient beast.
CHAPTER THREE THE START THE RAILROAD SPIKE
A five o'clock call, though quite in accordance with orders, was received with some resentment and responded to reluctantly, the Professor remarking that it seemed but fair to give the slow-going sun a reasonable start as against the automobile.
About fifty minutes were given to a thorough examination of the machine. Beyond the tightening of perhaps six or eight nuts there was nothing to do, everything was in good shape. But there is hardly a screw or nut on a new automobile that will not require tightening after a little hard usage; this is quite in the nature of things, and not a fault. It is only under work that every part of the machine settles into place. It is of vital importance during the first few days of a long tour to go over every screw, nut, and bolt, however firm and tight they may appear.
In time many of the screws and nuts will rust and corrode in place so as to require no more attention, but all that are subjected to great vibration will work loose, soon or late. The addition of one or two extra nuts, if there is room, helps somewhat; but where it is practical, rivet or upset the bolt with a few blows of the hammer; or with a punch, cold chisel, or even screw-driver jam the threads near the nut,—these destructive measures to be adopted only at points where it is rarely necessary to remove the bolts, and where possibilities of trouble from loosening are greater than any trouble that may be caused by destroying the threads.
We left Kendallville at ten minutes past seven; a light rain was falling which laid the dust for the first two miles. With top, side curtains, and boot we were perfectly dry, but the air was uncomfortably cool.
At Butler, an hour and a half later, the rain was coming down hard, and the roads were beginning to be slippery, with about two inches of mud and water.
We caught up with an old top buggy, curtains all on and down, a crate of ducks behind, the horse slowly jogging along at about three miles per hour. We wished to pass, but at each squawk of the horn the old lady inside simply put her hand through under the rear curtain and felt to see what was the matter with her ducks. We were obliged to shout to attract her attention.
In the country the horn is not so good for attracting attention as a loud gong. The horn is mistaken for dinner-horns and distant sounds of farmyard life. One may travel for some distance behind a wagon-load of people, trying to attract their attention with blasts on the horn, and see them casually look from side to side to see whence the sound proceeds, apparently without suspecting it could come from the highway.
The gong, however, is a well-known means of warning, used by police and fire departments and by trolley lines, and it works well in the country.
For some miles the Professor had been drawing things about him, and as he buttoned a newspaper under his coat remarked, "The modern newspaper is admirably designed to keep people warm—both inside and out. Under circumstances such as these one can understand why it is sometimes referred to as a 'blanket sheet.' The morning is almost cold enough for a 'yellow journal,'" and the Professor wandered on into an abstract dissertation upon journalism generally, winding up with the remark that, "It was the support of the yellow press which defeated Bryan;" but then the Professor is neither a politician nor the son of a politician —being a Scotchman, and therefore a philosopher and dogmatist. The pessimistic vein in his remarks was checked by the purchase of a reversible waterproof shooting-jacket at Butler, several sizes too large, but warm; and the Professor remarked, as he gathered its folds about him, "I was never much of a shot, but with this I think I'll make a hit."
"Strange how the thickness of a garment alters our views of things in general," I remarked.
"My dear fellow, philosophy is primarily a matter of food; secondarily, a matter of clothes: it does not concern the head at all."
At Butler we tightened the clutches, as the roads were becoming heavier.
At Edgerton the skies were clearing, the roads were so much better that the last three miles into Ridgeville were made in ten minutes.
At Napoleon some one advised the road through Bowling Green instead of what is known as the River road; in a moment of aberration we took the advice. For some miles the road was being repaired and almost impassable; farther on it seemed to be a succession of low, yellow sand-hills, which could only be surmounted by getting out, giving the machine all its power, and adding our own in the worst places.
Sand—deep, bottomless sand—is the one obstacle an automobile cannot overcome. It is possible to traverse roads so rough that the machine is well-nigh wrenched apart; to ride over timbers, stones, and boulders; plough through mud; but sand—deep, yielding sand—brings one to a stand-still. A reserve force of twenty or thirty horse-power will get through most places, but in dry weather every chauffeur dreads hearing the word sand, and anxiously inquires concerning the character of the sandy places.
Happily, when the people say the road is "sandy," they usually mean two or three inches of light soil, or gravelly sand over a firm foundation of some kind—that is all right; if there is a firm bottom, it does not matter much how deep the dust on top; the machine will go at nearly full speed over two or three inches of soft stuff; but if on cross-examination it is found that by sand they mean sand, and that ahead is a succession of sand ridges that are sand from base to summit, with no path, grass, or weeds upon which a wheel can find footing, then inquire for some way around and take it; it might be possible to plough through, but that is demoralizing on a hot day.
Happily, along most sandy roads and up most hills of sand there are firm spots along one side or the other, patches of weeds or grass which afford wheel-hold. Usually the surface of the sand is slightly firmer and the large automobile tires ride on it fairly well. As a rule, the softest, deepest, and most treacherous places in sand are the tracks where wagons travel—these are like quicksand.
The sun was hot, the sand was deep, and we had pushed and tugged until the silence was ominous; at length the lowering clouds of wrath broke, and the Professor said things that cannot be repeated.
By way of apology, he said, afterwards, while shaking the sand out of his shoes, "It is difficult to preserve the serenity of the class-room under conditions so very dissimilar. I understand now why the golf-playing parson swears in a bunker. It is not right, but it is very human. It is the recrudescence of the old Adam, the response of humanity to emergency. Education and religion prepare us for the common-place; nature takes care of the extraordinary. The Quaker hits back before he thinks. It is so much easier to repent than prevent. On the score of scarcity alone, an ounce of prevention is worth several tons of repentance; and—"
It was so apparent that the Professor was losing himself in abstractions, that I quietly let the clutches slip until the machine came to a stop, when the Professor looked anxiously down and said,—
"Is the blamed thing stuck again?"
We turned off the Bowling Green road to the River road, which is not only better, but more direct from Napoleon to Perrysburg. It was the road we originally intended to take; it was down on our itinerary, and in automobiling it is better to stick to first intentions.
The road follows the bank of the river up hill and down, through ravines and over creeks; it is hard, hilly, and picturesque; high speed was quite out of the question.
Not far from Three Rivers we came to a horse tethered among the trees by the road-side; of course, on hearing and seeing the automobile and while we were yet some distance away, it broke its tether and was off on a run up the road, which meant that unless some one intervened it would fly on ahead for miles. Happily, in this instance some men caught the animal after it had gone a mile or two, we, meanwhile, creeping on slowly so as not to frighten it more. Loose horses in the road make trouble. There is no one to look after them, and nine times out of ten they will go running ahead of the machine, like frightened deer, for miles. If the machine stops, they stop; if it starts, they start; it is impossible to get by. All one can do is to go on until they turn into a farmyard or down a cross-road.
The road led into Toledo, but we were told that by turning east at Perrysburg, some miles southwest of Toledo, we would have fifty miles or more of the finest road in the world,—the famous Perry's Pike.
All day long we lived in anticipation of the treat to come; at each steep hill and when struggling in the sand we mentioned Perry's Pike as the promised land. When we viewed it, we felt with Moses that the sight was sufficient.
In its day it must have been one of the wonders of the West, it is so wide and straight. In the centre is a broad, perfectly flat, raised strip of half-broken limestone. The reckless sumptuousness of such a highway in early days must have been overpowering, but with time and weather this strip of stone has worn into an infinite number of little ruts and hollows, with stones the size of cocoanuts sticking up everywhere. A trolley-line along one side of this central stretch has not improved matters.
Perry's Pike is so bad people will not use it; a road alongside the fence has been made by travel, and in dry weather this road is good, barring the pipes which cross it from oil-wells, and the many stone culverts, at each of which it is necessary to swing up on to the pike. The turns from the side road on to the pike at these culverts are pretty sharp, and in swinging up one, while going at about twenty-five miles an hour, we narrowly escaped going over the low stone wall into the ditch below. On that and one other occasion the Professor took a firmer hold of the side of the machine, but, be it said to the credit of learning, at no time did he utter an exclamation, or show the slightest sign of losing his head and jumping—as he afterwards remarked, "What's the use?"
To any one by the roadside the danger of a smash-up seems to come and pass in an instant,—not so to the person driving the machine; to him the danger is perceptible a very appreciable length of time before the critical point is reached.
The secret of good driving lies in this early and complete appreciation of difficulties and dangers encountered. "Blind recklessness" is a most expressive phrase; it means all the words indicate, and is contra-distinguished from open-eyed or wise recklessness.
The timid man is never reckless, the wise man frequently is, the fool always; the recklessness of the last is blind; if he gets through all right he is lucky.
It is reckless to race sixty miles an hour over a highway; but the man who does it with his eyes wide open, with a perfect appreciation of all the dangers, is, in reality, less reckless than the man who blindly runs his machine, hit or miss, along the road at thirty miles an hour,—the latter leaves havoc in his train.
One must have a cool, quick, and accurate appreciation of the margin of safety under all circumstances; it is the utilization of this entire margin—to the very verge—that yields the largest results in the way of rapid progress.
Every situation presents its own problem,—a problem largely mechanical,—a matter of power, speed, and obstructions; the chauffeur will win out whose perception of the conditions affecting these several factors is quickest and clearest.
One man will go down a hill, or make a safe turn at a high rate of speed, where another will land in the ditch, simply because the former overlooks nothing, while the latter does. It is not so much a matter of experience as of natural bent and adaptability. Some men can drive machines with very little experience and no instructions; others cannot, however long they try and however much they are told.
Accidents on the road are due to Defects in the road, Defects in the machine, or Defects in the driver.
American roads are bad, but not so bad that they can, with justice, be held responsible for many of the troubles attributed to them.
The roads are as they are, a practically constant,—and, for some time to come,—an unchangeable quantity. The roads are like the hills and the mountains, obstacles which must be overcome, and machines must be constructed to overcome them.
Complaints against American roads by American manufacturers of automobiles are as irrelevant to the issue as would be complaints on the part of traction-engine builders or wagon makers. Any man who makes vehicles for a given country must make them to go under the conditions—good, bad, or indifferent—which prevail in that country. In building automobiles for America or Australia, the only pertinent question is, "What are the roads of America or Australia?" not what ought they to be.
The manufacturer who finds fault with the roads should go out of the business.
Roads will be improved, but in a country so vast and sparsely settled as North America, it is not conceivable that within the next century a net-work of fine roads will cover the land; for generations to come there will be soft roads, sandy roads, rocky roads, hilly roads, muddy roads,—and the American automobile must be so constructed as to cover them as they are.
The manufacturer who waits for good roads everywhere should move his factory to the village of Falling Waters, and sleep in the Kaatskills.
Machines which give out on bad roads, simply because the roads are bad, are faultily constructed.
Defects in roads, to which mishaps may be fairly attributed, are only those unlooked for conditions which make trouble for all other vehicles, such as wash-outs, pit-holes, weak culverts, broken bridges,—in short, conditions which require repairs to restore the road to normal condition. The normal condition may be very bad; but whatever it is, the automobile must be constructed so as to travel thereon, else it is not adapted to that section of the country.
It may be discouraging to the driver for pleasure to find in rainy weather almost bottomless muck and mud on portions of the main travelled highway between New York and Buffalo, but that, for the present, is normal. The manufacturer may regret the condition and wish for better, but he cannot be heard to complain, and if the machine, with reasonably careful driving, gives out, it is the fault of the maker and not the roads.
It follows, therefore, that few troubles can be rightfully attributed to defects in the road, since what are commonly called defects are conditions quite normal to the country.
It was nearly six o'clock when we arrived at Fremont. The streets were filled with people in gala attire, the militia were out, —bands playing, fire-crackers going,—a belated Fourth of July.
When we stopped for water, we casually asked a small patriot,—
"What are you celebrating?"
"The second of August," was the prompt reply. I left it to the Professor to find out what had happened on the second of August, for the art of teaching is the concealment of ignorance.
With a fine assumption of his very best lecture-room manner, the Professor leaned carelessly upon the delicate indicator on the gasoline tank and began:
"That was a great day, my boy."
"Yes, sir, it was."
"And it comes once a year."
"Ahem—" in some confusion, "I mean you celebrate once a year."
"Sure, we celebrate every second of August, and it comes every year."
"Quite right, quite right; always recall with appropriate exercises the great events in your country's history." The Professor peered benignly over his glasses at the boy and continued kindly but firmly:
"Now, my boy, do you go to school?"
"Very good. Now can you tell me why the people of Fremont celebrate the second of August?"
"Sure, it is on account of—" then a curious on-looker nudged the Professor in the ribs and began, as so many had done before,—
"Say, mister, it's none of my business—"
"Exactly," groaned the Professor; "it weighs a ton—two tons sometimes—more in the sand; it cost twelve hundred dollars, and will cost more before we are done with it. Yes, I know what you are about to say, you could buy a 'purty slick' team for that price,—in fact, a dozen nags such as that one leaning against you,—but we don't care for horses. My friend here who is spilling the water all over the machine and the small boy, once owned a horse, it kicked over the dash-board, missed his mother-in-law and hit him; horse's intention good, but aim bad,—since then he has been prejudiced against horses; it goes by gasoline—sometimes; that is not a boiler, it is the cooler—on hot days we take turns sitting on it;—explosions,—electric spark,—yes, it is queer; —man at last stop made same bright remark; no danger from explosions if you are not too near,—about a block away is safer; start by turning a crank; yes, that is queer, queerer than the other queer things; cylinder does get hot, but so do we all at times; we ought to have water jackets—that is a joke that goes with the machine; yes, it is very fast, from fifty to seventy miles per—; 'per what?' you say; well, that depends upon the roads,—not at all, I assure you, no trouble to anticipate your inquiries by these answers—it is so seldom one meets any one who is really interested—you can order a machine by telegraph; any more information you would like?—No!—then my friend, in return, will you tell me why you celebrate the second of August?"
"Danged if I know." And we never found out.
At Bellevue we lighted our lamps and ran to Norwalk over a very fair road, arriving a few minutes after eight. Norwalk liveries did not like automobiles, so we put the machine under a shed.
This second day's run was about one hundred and fifty miles in twelve hours and fifty-four minutes gross time; deducting stops, left nine hours and fifty-four minutes running time—an average of about fourteen and one-half miles per hour.
Ohio roads are by no means so good as Indiana. Not until we left Painesville did we find any gravel to speak of. There was not much deep sand, but roads were dry, dusty, and rough; in many localities hard clay with deep ruts and holes.
A six o'clock call and a seven o'clock breakfast gave time enough to inspect the machine.
The water-tank was leaking through a crack in the side, but not so badly that we could not go on to Cleveland, where repairs could be made more quickly. A slight pounding which had developed was finally located in the pinion of a small gear-wheel that operated the exhaust-valve.
It is sometimes by no means easy to locate a pounding in a gasoline motor, and yet it must be found and stopped. An expert from the factory once worked four days trying to locate a very loud and annoying pounding. He, of course, looked immediately at the crank- and wrist-pins, taking up what little wear was perceptible, but the pounding remained; then eccentric strap, pump, and every bearing about the motor were gone over one by one, without success; the main shaft was lifted out, fly-wheel drawn off, a new key made; the wheel drawn on again tight, all with no effect upon the hard knock which came at each explosion. At last the guess was made that possibly the piston was a trifle small for the cylinder; a new and slightly larger piston was put in and the noise ceased. It so happened that the expert had heard of one other such case, therefore he made the experiment of trying a fractionally larger piston as a last resort; imagine the predicament of the amateur, or the mechanic who had never heard of such a trouble.
There is, of course, a dull thud at each explosion; this is the natural "kick" of the engine, and is very perceptible on large single-cylinder motors; but this dull thud is very different from the hammer-like knock resulting from lost motion between the parts, and the practised ear will detect the difference at once.
The best way to find the pounding is to throw a stream of heavy lubricating oil on the bearings, one by one, until the noise is silenced for the moment. Even the piston can be reached with a flood of oil and tested.
It is not easy to tell by feeling whether a bearing on a gasoline motor is too free. The heat developed is so great that bearings are left with considerable play.
A leak in the water-tank or coils is annoying; but if facilities for permanent repair are lacking, a pint of bran or middlings from any farmer's barn, put in the water, will close the leak nine times out of ten.
From Norwalk through Wakeman and Kipton to Oberlin the road is rather poor, with but two or three redeeming stretches near Kipton. It is mostly clay, and in dry weather is hard and dusty and rough from much traffic.
Leading into Oberlin the road is covered with great broad flag-stones, which once upon a time must have presented a smooth hard surface, but now make a succession of disagreeable bumps.
Out of Elyria we made the mistake of leaving the trolley line, and for miles had to go through sand, which greatly lessened our speed, but towards Stony River the road was perfect, and we made the best time of the day.
It required some time in Cleveland to remove and repair the water-tank, cut a link out of the chain, take up the lost motion in the steering-wheel, and tighten up things generally. It was four o'clock before we were off for Painesville.
Euclid Avenue is well paved in the city, but just outside there is a bit of old plank road that is disgracefully bad. Through Wickliff, Willoughby, and Mentor the road is a smooth, hard gravel.
Arriving at Painesville a few minutes after seven, we took in gasoline, had supper, and prepared to start for Ashtabula.
It was dark, so we could not see the tires; but just before starting I gave each a sharp blow with a wrench to see if it was hard,—a sharp blow, or even a kick, tells the story much better than feeling of the tires.
One rear tire was entirely deflated. A railroad spike four and three-quarters inches long, and otherwise well proportioned, had penetrated full length. It had been picked up along the trolley line, was probably struck by the front wheel, lifted up on end so that the rear tire struck the sharp end exactly the right angle to drive the spike in lengthwise of the tread.
It was a big ragged puncture which could not be repaired on the road; there was nothing to do but stop over night and have a tire sent out from Cleveland next day.
While waiting the next morning, we jacked up the wheel and removed the damaged tire.
It is not easy to remove quickly and put on heavy single-tube tires, and a few suggestions may not be amiss.
The best tools are half-leaves of carriage springs. At any carriage shop one can get halves of broken springs. They should be sixteen or eighteen inches long, and are ready for use without forging filing or other preparation. With three such halves one man can take off a tire in fifteen or twenty minutes; two men will work a little faster; help on the road is never wanting.
Let the wheel rest on the tire with valve down; loosen all the lugs; insert thin edge of spring-leaf between rim and tire, breaking the cement and partially freeing tire; insert spring-leaf farther at a point just about opposite valve and pry tire free from rim, holding and working it free by pushing in other irons or screw-drivers, or whatever you have handy; when lugs and tire are out of the hollow of the rim for a distance of eighteen or twenty inches, it will be easy to pass the iron underneath the tire, prying up the tire until it slips over the rim, when with the hands it can be pulled off entirely; the wheel is then raised and the valve-stem carefully drawn out.
All this can be done with the wheel jacked up, but if resting on the tire as suggested, the valve-stem is protected during the efforts to loosen tire.
To put on a single-tube tire properly, the rim should be thoroughly cleaned with gasoline, and the new tire put on with shellac or cement, or with simply the lugs to hold.
Shellac can be obtained at any drug store, is quickly brushed over both the tire and the rim, and the tire put in place—that holds very well. Cement well applied is stronger. If the rim is well covered with old cement, gasoline applied to the surface of the old cement will soften it; or with a plumber's torch the rim may be heated without injuring enamel and the cement melted, or take a cake of cement, soften it in gasoline or melt it, or even light it like a stick of sealing-wax and apply it to the rim. If hot cement is used it will be necessary to heat the rim after the tire is on to make a good job.
After the rim is prepared, insert valve-stem and the lugs near it; let the wheel down so as to rest on that part of the tire, then with the iron work the tire into the rim, beginning at each side of valve. The tire goes into place easily until the top is reached where the two irons are used to lift tire and lugs over the rim; once in rim it is often necessary to pound the tire with the flat of the iron to work the lugs into their places; by striking the tire in the direction it should go the lugs one by one will slip into their holes; put on the nuts and the work is done.
In selecting a half-leaf of a spring, choose one the width of the springs to the machine, and carry along three or four small spring clips, for it is quite likely a spring may be broken in the course of a long run, and, if so, the half-leaf can be clipped over the break, making the broken spring as serviceable and strong for the time being as if sound.
CHAPTER FIVE ON TO BUFFALO "GEE WHIZ!!"
From Painesville three roads led east,—the North Ridge, Middle Ridge, and South Ridge. We followed the middle road, which is said to be by far the best; it certainly is as good a gravel road as one could ask. Some miles out a turn is made to the South Ridge for Ashtabula.
There is said to be a good road out of Ashtabula; possibly there is, but we missed it at one of the numerous cross roads, and soon found ourselves wallowing through corn-fields, climbing hills, and threading valleys in the vain effort to find Girard,—a point quite out of our way, as we afterwards learned.
The Professor's bump of locality is a depression. As a passenger without serious occupation, it fell to his lot to inquire the way. This he would do very minutely, with great suavity and becoming gravity, and then with no sign of hesitation indicate invariably the wrong road. Once, after crossing a field where there were no fences to mark the highway, descending a hill we could not have mounted, and finding a stream that seemed impassable, the Professor quietly remarked,—
"That old man must have been mistaken regarding the road; yet he had lived on that corner forty years. Strange how little some people know about their surroundings!"
"But are you sure he said the first turn to the left?"
"He said the first turn, but whether to the left or right I cannot now say. It must have been to the right."
"But, my dear Professor, you said to the left."
"Well, we were going pretty fast when we came to the four corners, and something had to be said, and said quickly. I notice that on an automobile decision is more important than accuracy. After being hauled over the country for three days, I have made up my mind that automobiles are driven upon the hypothesis that it is better to lose the road, lose life, lose anything than lose time, therefore, when you ask me which way to turn, you will get an immediate, if not an accurate, response; besides, there is a bridge ahead, a little village across the stream, so the road leads somewhere."
Now and then the Professor would jump out to assist some female in distress with her horse; at first it was a matter of gallantry, then a duty, then a burden. Towards the last it used to delight him to see people frantically turning into lanes, fields, anywhere to get out of the way.
The horse is a factor to be considered—and placated. He is in possession and cannot be forcibly ejected,—a sort of terre-tenant; such title as he has must be respected.
After wrestling with an unusually notional beast, to the great disorder of clothing and temper, the Professor said,—
"The brain of the horse is small; it is an animal of little sense and great timidity, but it knows more than most people who attempt to drive."
In reality horses are seldom driven; they generally go as they please, with now and then a hint as to which corner to turn. Nine times out of ten it is the driven horse that makes trouble for owners of automobiles. The drunken driver never has any trouble; his horses do not stop, turn about, or shy into the ditch; the man asleep on the box is perfectly safe; his horse ambles on, minding its own business, giving a full half of the road to the approaching machine. It is the man, who, on catching sight of the automobile, nervously gathers up his reins, grabs his whip, and pulls and jerks, who makes his own troubles; he is searching for trouble, expects it, and is disappointed if he gets by without it. Nine times out of ten it is the driver who really frightens the horse. A country plug, jogging quietly along, quite unterrified, may be roused to unwonted capers by the person behind.
Some take the antics of their horses quite philosophically. One old farmer, whose wheezy nag tried to climb the fence, called out,—
"Gee whiz! I wish you fellers would come this way every day; the old hoss hasn't showed so much ginger for ten year."
Another, carrying just a little more of the wine of the country than his legs could bear, stood up unsteadily in his wagon and shouted,—
"If you (hic) come around these pa-arts again with that thres-in' ma-a-chine, I'll have the law on you,—d'ye hear?"
The personal equation is everything on the road, as elsewhere.
It is quite idle to expect skill, courage, or common sense from the great majority of drivers. They get along very well so long as nothing happens, but in emergencies they are helpless, because they have never had experience in emergencies. The man who has driven horses all his life is frequently as helpless under unusual conditions as the novice. Few drivers know when and how to use the whip to prevent a runaway or a smash-up.
With the exception of professional and a few amateur whips, no one is ever taught how to drive. Most persons who ride—even country boys—are given many useful hints, lessons, and demonstrations; but it seems to be assumed that driving is a natural acquirement.
As a matter of fact, it is much more important to be taught how to drive than how to ride. A horse in front of a vehicle can do all the mean things a horse under a saddle can do, and more; and it is far more difficult to handle an animal in shafts by means of long reins and a whip.
If people knew half as much about horses as they think they do, there would be no mishaps; if horses were half as nervous as they are supposed to be, the accidents would be innumerable.
The truth is, the horse does very well if managed with a little common sense, skill, and coolness.
As a matter of law, the automobile is a vehicle, and has precisely the same rights on the highway that a bicycle or a carriage has. The horse has no monopoly of the highway, it enjoys no especial privileges, but must share the road with all other vehicles. Furthermore, the law makes it the business of the horse to get accustomed to strange sights and behave itself This duty has been onerous the last few years; the bicycle, the traction engine, and the trolley have come along in quick succession; the automobile is about the last straw.
Until the horse is accustomed to the machine, it is the duty—by law and common sense—of the automobile driver to take great care in passing; the care being measured by the possibility and probability of at accident.
The sympathy of every chauffeur must be entirely with the driver of the horse. Automobiles are not so numerous in this country that they may be looked for at every turn, and one cannot but feel for the man or woman who, while driving, sees one coming down the road. The best of drivers feel panicky, while women and children are terror-stricken.
It is no uncommon sight to see people jump out of their carriages or drive into fields or lanes, anywhere, to get out of the way. In localities where machines have been driven recklessly, men and women, though dressed in their best, frequently jump out in the mud as soon as an automobile comes in sight, and long before the chauffeur has an opportunity to show that he will exercise caution in approaching. All this is wrong and creates an amount of ill-feeling hard to overcome.
If one is driving along a fine road at twenty or thirty miles an hour, it is, of course, a relief to see coming vehicles turn in somewhere; but it ought not to be necessary for them to do so. Often people like to turn to one side for the sake of seeing the machine go by at full speed; but if they do not wish to, the automobile should be so driven as to pass with safety.
On country roads there is but one way to pass horses without risk, and that is let the horses pass the machine.
In cities horses give very little trouble; in the country they give no end of trouble; they are a very great drawback to the pleasure of automobiling. Horses that behave well in the city are often the very worst in the country, so susceptible is the animal to environment.
On narrow country roads three out of five will behave badly, and unless the outward signs are unmistakable, it is never safe to assume one is meeting an old plug,—even the plug sometimes jumps the ditch.
The safe, the prudent, the courteous thing to do is to stop and let the driver drive or lead his horse by; if a child or woman is driving, get out and lead the horse.
By stopping the machine most horses can be gotten by without much trouble. Even though the driver motions to come on, it is seldom safe to do so; for of all horses the one that is brought to a stand-still in front of a machine is surest to shy, turn, or bolt when the machine starts up to pass. If one is going to pass a horse without stopping, it is safer to do so quickly,—the more quickly the better; but that is taking great chances.
Whenever a horse, whether driven or hitched, shows fright, a loud, sharp "Whoa!" from the chauffeur will steady the animal. The voice from the machine, if sharp and peremptory, is much more effective than any amount of talking from the carriage.
Much of the prejudice against automobiles is due to the fact that machines are driven with entire disregard for the feelings and rights of horse owners; in short, the highway is monopolized to the exclusion of the public. The prejudice thus created is manifested in many ways that are disagreeable to the chauffeur and his friends.
The trouble is not in excessive speed, and speed ordinances will not remedy the trouble. A machine may be driven as recklessly at ten or twelve miles an hour as at thirty. In a given distance more horses can be frightened by a slow machine than a fast. It is all in the manner of driving.
Speed is a matter of temperament. In England, the people and local boards cannot adopt measures stringent enough to prevent speeding; in Ireland, the people and local authorities line the highways, urging the chauffeur to let his machine out; in America, we are suspended between English prudence and repression on the one side and Irish impulsiveness and recklessness on the other.
The Englishman will not budge; the Irishman cries, "Let her go."
Speaking of the future of the automobile, the Professor said,—
"Cupid will never use the automobile, the little god is too conservative; fancy the dainty sprite with oil-can and waste instead of bow and arrow. I can see him with smut on the end of his mischievous nose and grease on the seat of the place where his trousers ought to be. What a picture he would make in overalls and jumper, leather jacket and cap; he could not use dart or arrow, at best he could only run the machine hither and thither bunting people into love—knocking them senseless, which is perhaps the same thing. No, no, Cupid will never use the automobile. Imagine Aphrodite in goggles, clothed in dust, her fair skin red from sunburn and glistening with cold cream; horrible nightmare of a mechanical age, avaunt!
"The chariots of High Olympus were never greased, they used no gasoline, the clouds we see about them are condensed zephyrs and not dust. Omniscient Jove never used a monkey-wrench, never sought the elusive spark, never blew up a four-inch tire with a half-inch pump. Even if the automobile could surmount the grades, it would never be popular on Olympian heights. Mercury might use it to visit Vulcan, but he would never go far from the shop.
"As for conditions here on earth, why should a young woman go riding with a man whose hands, arms, and attention are entirely taken up with wheels, levers, and oil-cups? He can't even press her foot without running the risk of stopping the machine by releasing some clutch; if he moves his knees a hair's-breadth in her direction it does something to the mechanism; if he looks her way they are into the ditch; if she attempts to kiss him his goggles prevent; his sighs are lost in the muffler and hers in the exhaust; nothing but dire disaster will bring an automobile courtship to a happy termination; as long as the machine goes love-making is quite out of the question.
"Dobbin, dear old secretive Dobbin, what difference does it make to you whether you feel the guiding hand or not? You know when the courtship begins, the brisk drives about town to all points of interest, to the pond, the poorhouse, and the cemetery; you know how the courtship progresses, the long drives in the country, the idling along untravelled roads and woodland ways, the moonlight nights and misty meadows; you know when your stops to nibble by the wayside will not be noticed, and you alone know when it is time to get the young couple home; you know, alas! when the courtship—blissful period of loitering for you—is ended and when the marriage is made, by the tighter rein, the sharper word, and the occasional swish of the whip. Ah, Dobbin, you and I—" The Professor was becoming indiscreet.
"What do you know about love-making, Professor?"
"My dear fellow, it is the province of learning to know everything and practise nothing."
"We all have had our Dobbins."
For some miles the road out of Erie was soft, dusty, narrow, and poor—by no means fit for the proposed Erie-Buffalo race. About fifteen miles out there is a sharp turn to the left and down a steep incline with a ravine and stream below on the right,—a dangerous turn at twenty miles an hour, to say nothing of forty or fifty.
There is nothing to indicate that the road drops so suddenly after making the turn, and we were bowling along at top speed; a wagon coming around the corner threw us well to the outside, so that the margin of safety was reduced to a minimum, even if the turn were an easy one.
As we swung around the corner well over to the edge of the ravine, we saw the grade we had to make. Nothing but a succession of small rain gullies in the road saved us from going down the bank. By so steering as to drop the skidding wheels on the outside into each gully, the sliding of the machine received a series of violent checks and we missed the brink of the ravine by a few inches.
A layman in the Professor's place would have jumped; but he, good man, looked upon his escape as one of the incidents of automobile travel.
"When I accepted your invitation, my dear fellow, I expected something beyond the ordinary. I have not been disappointed."
It was a wonder the driving-wheels were not dished by the violent side strains, but they were not even sprung. These wheels were of wire tangential spokes; they do not look so well as the smart, heavy, substantial wooden wheels one sees on nearly all imported machines and on some American.
The sense of proportion between parts is sadly outraged by spindle-wire wheels supporting the massive frame-work and body of an automobile; however strong they may be in reality, architecturally they are quite unfit, and no doubt the wooden wheel will come more and more into general use.
A wooden wheel with the best of hickory spokes possesses an elasticity entirely foreign to the rigid wire wheel, but good hickory wheels are rare; paint hides a multitude of sins when spread over wood; and inferior wooden wheels are not at all to be relied upon.
Soon we begin to catch glimpses of Lake Erie through the trees and between the hills, just a blue expanse of water shining in the morning sun, a sapphire set in the dull brown gold of woods and fields. Farther on we come out upon the bluffs overlooking the lake and see the smoke and grime of Buffalo far across. What a blot on a view so beautiful!